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Why I Love Anime, But Not Anime Fans

I started learning Japanese in 2018, which is about six years ago.  I haven’t progressed nearly as far as I’d like, but I guess one could make the argument that the slow burn was helpful in making sure that what did stick, actually did.  So maybe it was the right pace for me, even though it’s really frustrating for me.

I stayed away from anime for the longest times, because I didn’t like the “community”.

Maybe a year or so ago, I started to watch anime for real, and found I really liked it.  It is often (but not always) well made, often (but not always) has engaging and fun stories, and the absolute best ones made me think and actually inspired me to change my life in some real, concrete ways.  So… I love anime (for the most part).

I still don’t like the community.

It used to be because I thought they were a bunch of sex-crazed perverts who were only in it for the waifus and fanservice.  And, well, certainly some are that way.  But I think my problems with them have become more fundamental as I’ve learned more about it.

My biggest problem with a large part of the community is that they don’t engage with anime on its terms.

For the most part, anime is a reflection of Japanese culture.  If you look at anime for what it is, you can see strong reflections of Japanese everyday life, how they see the world, and how they interact with each other.  Often anime doesn’t try to hide the blemishes of Japanese society, but it attempts instead to grapple with it, to come to terms with it, to understand themselves and how they interact with the world.  The way they use honorifics and other forms of address is really enlightening, for example, as to how their language, their social structure, and many other things work.  It doesn’t always meet our expectations and sensitivities, but it is interesting.

But if you don’t know Japanese, you’ll miss out on all of it.

Worse, you’ll not only miss out on all of it, but you’re at the mercy of those who would translate and localize it, and you’re a fool if you don’t think they take full advantage of that fact, morphing and warping it to be the way they want, and you’ll be no more the wiser.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t watch anime at all if you don’t speak the language.  Japanese is difficult, and that would be stupid.  But I’m saying that if you don’t even understand that not speaking the language and being ignorant of the culture is a problem, then you’re enabling the people who want to stamp out Japanese culture and turn it into American culture with sailor uniforms and blue hair.

I don’t understand everything about Japanese culture.  I never will, because I’m not Japanese.  But I know at least enough to know how much I don’t know, and it’s a lot.  It seems a lot of fans don’t even have that knowledge, and I think they’re missing out on a lot.  That’s, of course, their privilege.  But they’re also projecting that proud ignorance out on the world, and that is what I think isn’t forgivable.

Looking back on some of my previous posts and interactions, I’ll admit that I’ve maybe done the same thing in the past.  The difference is… I knew even at the time that I was missing something, and, well, I got at least a little bit better.  I wasn’t proud of it.

People who are proud of their ignorance just mess everything up.

You know what I think would make anime dubs so much better?  If they found Japanese people who could speak English, and did it themselves.  With a Japanese accent.  But that’ll never happen.

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